White House Urges Agencies to Expand Telework, Other Workplace Flexibilities

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

President Obama on Monday directed federal agencies to inform employees about the workplace flexibilities available to them, and ensure the government is doing its best to offer those benefits to its workforce.

The June 23 memorandum coincided with a White House summit in Washington on working families and the 21st century workplace. The memo to agency heads stated that employees “have the right to request work schedule flexibilities available to them under law, pursuant to an applicable collective bargaining agreement, or under agency policy, without fear of retaliation or adverse employment action as a consequence of making such a request” and that agencies must periodically educate employees about those flexibilities.

The memo also directed agency supervisors to consider an employee’s request “carefully” and respond within 20 business days of the initial request, or sooner if required by agency policy.

Workplace flexibilities include a range of alternative work options designed to help employees and families achieve a better work-life balance. Some common flexibilities include telework; alternative work schedules; part-time employment; sick leave to care for family members; child care assistance; employee assistance programs, including counseling; and support for nursing mothers, including onsite lactation resources. Obama’s memo directed agencies to expand access to those and other flexibilities available to employees “to the maximum extent practicable, in accordance with the laws and regulations governing these programs and consistent with mission needs.”

The Office of Personnel Management will issue guidance to agency human capital officers within 60 days, according to the memo. Obama also tasked OPM with supporting agencies in providing employees with workplace flexibilities as well as creating an annual online Workplace Flexibility Index based on data from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey to measure agencies’ progress. Within 120 days of the date of the memorandum, agencies have to submit a report to OPM that lists how they use workplace flexibilities, as well as any best practices or obstacles they’ve encountered in implementing them.

Obama wants the federal government to serve as a model for the American workforce when it comes to work-life balance, eliminating the gender pay gap and employing more people of diverse backgrounds.

The American Federation of Government Employees praised the latest White House memo, hoping that the public show of support for workplace flexibilities will motivate agency leadership to do a better job advertising options and helping employees take advantage of them where possible.

For instance, some agencies and federal managers continue to resist telework, despite the federal government’s long-standing effort to promote it.

“Some managers think that if they don’t see employees every day, then they’re not working,” said AFGE Local 3403 President Carter Kimsey. “But experience and numerous studies show that teleworkers are actually more productive than when they’re in the office and enjoy a healthy work-life balance, since they’re not wasting time and money commuting to and from work.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.